The vice is tightening around Donald Trump as 2024 decision looms

“My beautiful home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents,” Trump posted on Truth Social, his preferred social network, on Monday evening.

He added that “they even broke into my safe.” Agents appear to be focused on the area of the sprawling estate where Trump’s living quarters and offices are located.

Police direct traffic outside an entrance to former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate during a raid, Monday, August 8, 2022, in Palm Beach, Florida. (AP)
Stickers in support of former President Donald Trump are displayed on the trunk of a sports utility vehicle parked on South Ocean Boulevard near Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, late Monday, August 8, 2022.
Stickers in support of former President Donald Trump are displayed on the trunk of a sports utility vehicle parked on South Ocean Boulevard near Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, late Monday, August 8, 2022. (AP)

It was not immediately clear what the FBI was after – or what, specifically, the agents were looking for.

Boxes of items were taken during the search, a source familiar with the investigation told CNN.

We do know that federal investigators issued a subpoena to the National Archives and Records Administration in May for access to classified documents that were taken to Trump’s home in Florida – part of a grand jury investigation into whether Trump or anyone else close to him mishandled classified documents that he took with him after leaving the White House last January.

Former President Donald Trump delivers the final remarks during Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022. (Shafkat Anowar/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
Former President Donald Trump delivers the final remarks during Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, on Saturday, August 6, 2022. (Shafkat Anowar/The Dallas Morning News via AP) (AP)

Earlier this year, 15 boxes of White House records that Trump had brought to Mar-a-Lago were retrieved and returned to the National Archives.

Among the items in the returned boxes included letters from North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and former President Barack Obama.

The FBI search also comes on the same day that The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman revealed photos of torn-up notes appearing to bear Trump’s distinctive penmanship in toilets – one of which was in the White House.

That’s consistent with this CNN reporting from mid-February:

“Three former White House officials told CNN they saw Trump, on numerous occasions, manually destroy papers he was no longer interested in or had finished reviewing – a practice that made it difficult for White House staff secretaries to preserve presidential records.

“Those officials said the former President sorted through file boxes in a rather methodical way – tearing up newspaper clippings or drafts of tweets that he had rejected and tossing them to the floor, or stacking papers he wished to hang on to in a disorderly stack atop his desk.”

Disposing of notes, emails and other forms of presidential communication is against federal law as laid out in the Presidential Records Act. (Under the Act, all correspondence of a president is owned, ultimately, by the public.)
The entrance to former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate is shown, Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, in Palm Beach, Fla. Trump said in a lengthy statement that the FBI was conducting a search of his Mar-a-Lago estate and asserted that agents had broken open a safe. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)
The entrance to former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate is shown, Monday, August 8, 2022, in Palm Beach, Florida. (AP Photo/Terry Renna) (AP)
The FBI’s execution of a search warrant also comes just days after the news broke that lawyers for Trump are in touch with the Justice Department in regards to its ongoing investigation into the January 6, 2021, riot at the US Capitol. As CNN first reported:

“The talks revolve around whether Trump would be able to shield conversations he had while he was president from federal investigators.

“In recent weeks, investigators have moved aggressively into Trump’s orbit, subpoenaing top former White House officials, focusing on efforts to overturn the 2020 election and executing searches of lawyers who sought to aid those efforts.”

Trump, CNN has also reported, has quizzed his legal team of late as to whether he might be indicted, although he himself is skeptical it will come to that. (Worth noting: Trump is not a lawyer.)

Former President Donald Trump speaks during an event with Joe Lombardo, Clark County sheriff and Republican candidate for Nevada governor, and republican Nevada Senate candidate Adam Laxalt, Friday, July 8, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Former Trump posted on Truth Social, his preferred social network, on Monday evening and said FBI agents broke into his safe.. (AP Photo/John Locher) (AP)

The series of developments – culminating with the high-profile search of Trump’s home on Monday – reinforce a fundamental fact of Trump’s situation: He is far more likely to see a 2024 run for president curtailed by legal problems than political ones.

Politically, Trump remains the 800-pound gorilla in the Republican field. Over the weekend, he convincingly won a straw poll at a conservative gathering in Texas.

And, he has all but announced his intention to run again, with the major question at this point being when he will announce his candidacy – not whether he will do so.

Trump’s mounting legal woes – or at least the clear sense that this variety of investigations is getting closer and closer to him – complicate all of that. Trump under legal fire is one thing for Republicans to accept.

Trump under indictment is something else entirely.

We are, of course, not there yet. But, Monday’s FBI activity suggests that Trump’s legal problems are likely to get worse before they get better. And they may get way, way worse.

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